Oscar and Lucinda
- Rated - HOT HOT HOT
According to some of the local critics, Oscar and Lucinda is beautiful,
but cold. They find it does not engage their emotions as they'd hoped.
They find Ralph Fiennes' performance flawed, and too mannered -
composed of too many tics, and not enough character. But they praise
Cate Blanchett's performance as intelligent and subtle.
My view is the complete opposite. Well almost.
The only thing in the above analysis that I agree with is that Oscar
and Lucinda is ravishingly beautiful. The locations and the
cinematography are breathtaking. The production design (Luciana
Arrighi) and set decoration is a delight. And, being a Sydney-sider, I
had the added thrill of recognising some of the locations and
marvelling at how they captured them and remade them in the 19th
century (some of it was done digitally).
But I happened to find Oscar and Lucinda intensely moving - and so did
my companion. I think that part of my strong reaction was due to how
vividly the film brought the detail of Carey's story back to me. I read
the novel almost 10 years ago - it is one of my favourites - but I had
forgotten much of the detail. Now Gillian Armstrong has made a film
that brought the book flooding back - not just the story, but the
emotional depths as well.
Ralph Fiennes, I thought, was a perfect Oscar. One of the things I
remember most vividly from the book is Carey' portrait of Oscar - all
wringing hands and twitches, pale and interesting, as they used to say.
Fiennes has captured this, but avoided some kind of Uriah Heep
caricature. He does this, and he also has the wit to play up the humour
of the character as well. But he doesn't become a figure of fun - he's
more like the Holy Fool that Carey intended. Fiennes does all this, and
along the way he manages to make the timid and odd-looking Oscar
attractive, in a strange sort of way.
Cate Blanchett certainly looks the part - helped considerably by
splendid costumes designed by Janet Patterson. And she brings
considerable intelligence to the part. She also plays the part for
humour when required. And she's another satisfyingly strong female lead
in Gillian Anderson's oeuvre. But I was never convinced of Lucinda's
motivation. She had bouts of enthusiasm, and frissons of excitement
which motivated her from time to time, but never did I glimpse the
driving force behind her obsession. That said, her final scene is
A couple of other little quibbles I have are:
· one or two shots of the enormous steamer on which Oscar and
Lucinda travel to Australia are of a very small boat indeed;
· the film feels a little rushed in the first few scenes as all
the background is given to us in big gulps;
· sometimes the sets do look slightly artificial (but maybe
that's just because I had a rather Brechtian detachment due to my
familiarity with many of the locations).
Against this I would list:
· The stunning racetrack scene with the passing parade of the
rogues and touts and tarts of 19th century England;
· The gorgeous bushland vistas;
· The beautiful river shots at Bellingen;
· The wonderful supporting cast of Australia's finest actors;
· Richard Roxburgh's scene-stealing performance.
I also think Gillian Armstrong and Laura Jones did well with the
changed ending. A film like this needs a closure, and cinema audiences
are probably not as tolerant as readers when it comes to emotional
satisfaction. The ending felt right. And it makes me keen to re-read
the book, just to mark the differences. I think that all adds up to a
very good film indeed.